Book Review: "Automatically Hip" by John McCaffrey


(You can also read this review on Goodreads.)


This fabulous short story collection is automatically readable!


Every story spotlights the brilliant, life-changing moments we all experience, despite our otherwise common lives.


While all of the stories are worth reading, the book opens with what remains my favorite. Imagined moments from multiple viewpoints postulate about the true life ousting of jazz pianist Thelonious Monk from New York’s club scene after he was arrested for heroine that wasn’t his. The writing captures the feel of jazz itself, as is evident from this opening:


“If you play jazz with cats, whether they’re finger zingers or rusty gates, no matter if they have balloon lungs or freak lips, if the rhythm is gut bucket or smoking, you’re bound to throw out a clunker or have one passed your way now and again.”


Marvelous!


And as a woman, I especially loved the male characters. Rather than write about he-men out to prove something, McCaffrey’s men struggle with the seismic emotions we all feel, but are often forced to deal with in quiet, solitary ways due to cultural mores that depict men as needing to be strong an invulnerable. Such is the case of three workmen who wait for an ambulance to arrive after a foreman falls headfirst in stack of metal piping. The same is true for a young college graduate who accepts a boring blue-collar job for the summer, yet connects with a working class guy who achieves the kind of focus and happiness the young man craves in his later years.


I loved the compact nature of the stories. In only a few pages, the author conveys the characters’ conflict, actions and resulting epiphanies. The top-notch descriptions immediately spark scenes to life.


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